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With hundreds of "Green Houses" already underway, The Green House Project re-imagines long term care into smaller homes—returning control, dignity, and a sense of well being to elders along with personalized care.

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It's hard NOT to be inspired by *Green House Project Dr. Thomas' book, "What are Older People For: How Elders Will Save the World" and a related NPR podcast by Joseph Schapiro...

Essentially "Green Houses" re-vision and reverse traditional long term care models by developing smaller homes that are integrated into the neighboring community. These homes are carefully considered and designed to return dignity and a sense of well being—as well as personalized care—to elders. 

At the core of this model are the skilled nursing assistants called shahbazim (basically "midwives to the elders"). These shahbaz care for and befriend the elders, with the support from nurses and therapists. 

The Green House Project builds upon years of innovative prototyping around elder care. Green Houses are not just modified nursing homes (although they were at first conceived that way as the EDEN Alternative). Green Houses are built from scratch, from the ground up, taking into consideration every possible detail.

The Green House Project was conceived and developed by Dr. Bill Thomas, who wrote "What are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World" which seeks to re-discover the role and value of the elder in our society and outlines ways in which elders can become healers in our society.

The Green House Project was featured on an NPR podcast (only about 8 min. long) by Joseph Schapiro:

PART 1: "Reformers Seek to Reinvent Nursing Homes" (June 22, 2005) by Joseph Schapiro

PART 2: "The Green House Project" (June 23, 2005) by Joseph Schaprio

Dr. Thomas speaks of the ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN OF GREEN HOUSES in his book What Are Old People For? ... 

"The architecture of long-term care facilities reflects — in steel, brick, and tile — their fundamentally medical intention…In Boston I toured the Hearthstone facilities created by John Zeisel. As we bumped and juddered over the city’s back streets,he told me that focus was Latin for "hearth." When we focus on something, we make it the center of our attention. The hearth is the center of a home, the place around which we arrange our living. Every Green House must have a center, a hearth around which the affairs of daily living may be arranged. Our deepest cultural memories suffuse the hearth with the twin pleasures of food and fire. The hearth includes an open kitchen and a large table around which meals are shared. The importance of having such an arrangement is confirmed by research showing that people living with dementia benefit from taking their meals in communal settings. Because the hearth is the center of the design, each elder’s room opens onto this space. There are no long corridors. Though the term homelike is often invoked, nursing home design actually gives its most careful attention to maximizing the efficient use of labor."

* This inspiration came out of a brainstorming session with the Palo Alto / Bay Area OpenIDEO local-meet-up. 

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NPR Podcast by Joseph Schaprio on The Green House Project


NPR Podcast by Joseph Schaprio on The Green House Project


The Greenhouse Project:


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Photo of Nathan Maton

"In a typical nursing home, there's little privacy" - great quote from the NPR clip here. Really interesting inspiration Mel + Frank! One possible build - what if the homes had some intergeneration connection to the community like being located right next to a local school so they could volunteer there?

Photo of Mel  Day

Thanks Nathan! Yes, I totally agree—a school / pre-school in the same building would be ideal for maximizing intergenerational possibility / community! Our son's montessori school was in a senior center and the elders would sometimes volunteer in the school and the parents and children would volunteer in the assisted living and nursing communities...Mutual befriending seemed to work naturally this way. We got to know one of the residents very well and she became a dear friend. While our new elder friend loved our visits, it was also so valuable to see my kids grow from this experience. At first they were afraid of the older adults and visiting them. It can be a daunting and strange space. After a while though, they would start encouraging and reminding me that we needed to go and visit!

The lively presence of the kids and all the community that goes along with that can mingle in so many ways with the elder community. Structuring intergenerational living and learning in the same space so that both communities are present to each other can foster so many possibilities. At the very least, kids can show projects, decorate throughout the seasons, parade through the halls etc at Halloween... both communities present to each other.

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